Yemen's war: Signs conflict could wind down in 2020: UN

Opponents waging war over the past five years appear ready to end the bloody conflict, United Nations official says.

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    People collect water amid a shortage of supplies in the capital Sanaa [Mohamed al-Sayaghi/Reuters]
    People collect water amid a shortage of supplies in the capital Sanaa [Mohamed al-Sayaghi/Reuters]

    Violence in Yemen will likely subside in 2020, amid signs the warring factions want to find a resolution to end the five-year war, a UN official has said.

    Mark Lowcock, the UN's emergency relief chief, told the Doha Forum on Sunday there are signs the key actors in the conflict could bring the war to an end next year, especially after the Riyadh agreement was signed by the government of Yemen and United Arab Emirates-backed groups in the country's south.

    In November, Saudi Arabia sponsored a power-sharing agreement between the internationally recognised government of Yemen and the UAE-supported southern separatists to halt fighting in southern Yemen.

    Lowcock said the UN is conducting the world's largest relief effort in Yemen, providing 15 million people with assistance including food, shelter and healthcare. He said the UN's work has been successful in averting humanitarian disasters, largely because it was able to raise billions of dollars mainly from regional donors to fund its efforts.

    "The UN is part of the solution in Yemen and is trying to manage it and find a solution too," he said.

    Criticism of the UN

    But Saeed Thabet, a Yemen analyst based in Qatar, criticised the UN and international community for not pressuring the warring parties to end the war instead of "managing" the conflict through relief work and by raising billions of dollars for its operations.

    "The UN should work to end the conflict in Yemen as opposed to just manage it," he told Al Jazeera.

    Thabet said Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have contributed to the suffering of the Yemeni people because they have waged a regional war against each other in Yemen.

    Thabet said Saudi Arabia and the UAE are trying to divide the country to serve their own interests, while Iran's proxy in Yemen, the Houthi rebels, serve as a strategic foothold for Tehran in the Arabian Peninsula. 

    In 2014, the Houthis toppled the government and took over the capital Sanaa and most of the country's north. The following year, Saudi Arabia led a coalition of Arab states in a military effort to defeat the Houthis and restore the government.

    Almost five years later, Saudi Arabia is alone in fighting the Houthis on its southern border and the rebels have consolidated their power and military strength in Yemen. The Houthis also have launched a number of missile attacks against targets inside Saudi Arabia.

    "For Saudi Arabia, the objective is to use Yemen's territory for its own plans to build oil pipelines to reach the Arabian Sea should the Hormuz Strait at the Gulf be blocked by Iran," Thabet said.

    As for the UAE, Thabet said its main objective is to divide the country into South and North Yemen where "it can use the South as its own satellite state". 

    Strategic location

    Despite its strategic location straddling the Red and Arabian Seas, which are major maritime shipping lanes, the majority of Yemen's 30 million people live in desperate poverty while its economy has been decimated by the conflict.

    Helen Lackner, author of Yemen in Crisis, said Yemen has incredible potential but the effects of the war will take generations to heal. She said 70 percent of Yemenis live in rural areas and 80 percent of all Yemenis are poor. 

    Lackner said most were impoverished before the war started and the conflict has exasperated the plight of Yemenis even further.

    She also said Yemen is facing acute water shortages and within a generation, many people will not be able to live there.

    Follow Ali Younes on Twitter: @ali_reports

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News